Do not avoid painful subjects

Do not avoid painful subjects

July 10
11:34 2015

The Editorial Board

Competitive ideas and beliefs are the framework of progress. But today we walk a narrow path between understanding and intolerance.

Take the street preachers who come to campus. They provoke passersby with their evangelistic message. Often, one can find dozens of students debating with the preachers; usually it gets heated.

And there is no issue with debating them, but a problem lies within the call to kick them off campus, because, as we’ve heard from students before, nobody deserves to hear their sermons as they’re walking to campus. Their sermon is often offensive to many people — Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists alike.

We’ve responded with anger in many cases rather than with love and understanding. Perhaps because we’ve become more connected and advanced, so our passion for our own ideas supersedes the need for clash and competitive ideas. We’ve gotten too comfortable with dismissing ideas we don’t like.

Just look at social media. Do you follow people who are offensive or rude? If not, it’s likely because you don’t want or have to see that. It’s so easy to block ideas and people. But that is not an appropriate model for society outside the Internet.

We are trained to delete, unfollow and unfriend, but when we interact with those who oppose or provoke us, it seems the easiest thing to do is call for their dismissal or to ignore the situation all together.

Do not misunderstand freedom of speech for the right to be devoid of others’ thoughts. Do not treat your speech as the most esteemed speech; do not rank others’ speech — no matter how difficult — as lower tier. Do not ignore any speech; because to ignore it is to hide from the issues. And hiding weakens our world.

On Tuesday, “Go Set a Watchman,” the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s prized American story, will release. And it comes with some upsetting changes. Atticus Fench is said to be racist, a bitter change from his moral stance on racism in “Mockingbird,” when he defended Tom Robinson in court against Jim Crow.

We urge readers not to turn this book away, but consume it for wisdom. It may be unsettling to get through, but know Lee writes with the inclination to weave a moral lesson into the society we live today, a United States with ever growing racial dissonance, peppered with hurt and ignorance. Read “Watchman” to enrich your conscience, to broaden your perspective.

Furthermore, the First Amendment does not have a hate speech clause that excludes anybody’s opinion just because it is rude, hard to digest or worse. The First Amendment highlights there will be counter opinions.

And that’s arguably the most important piece of legislation introduced to this country. The framers of the Constitution understood simply being able to exercise one’s speech is not enough; we all should listen to others, not ignore them.

How bland will our society become if we only follow what makes us comfortable? Moreover, how dangerous will our society be if comfort overrules enlightenment? Society evolves, and seeking to agree on everything (to be comfortable) will stunt its growth.

Find somebody whose beliefs make you mad. When you’re on the brink of tears, go further. Never stop striving for enlightenment. Be passionate about understanding.

Never maneuver from discomfort. Force others to have uneasy conversations. If you don’t, we’ll never have another marriage equality moment.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. flew 100 mph into discomfort. Be great. Be strong. Be cautious of intolerance. Seek to understand.

Editor’s Note: The part about “Go Set a Watchman” was added Saturday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m., after this editorial was originally posted on Friday.

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1 Comment

  1. Andy
    Andy August 05, 13:31

    Flip it around: Many students would also be angry at a street “marriage equality” activist provoking opinions from passing-by dissenters.

    Free speech is free speech. It deserves to be protected, whatever your viewpoint. Just make sure it’s not confined to a “free speech zone.” 🙂

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